Key Points:

Claire Trevett continues our series on Parliament's new MPs, based on their maiden speeches.

Simon Bridges

National MP for Tauranga

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New MP Simon Bridges wants New Zealanders to reconsider the right to silence for those accused of serious and sexual crimes and to trust juries with more information.

Mr Bridges, a former Crown prosecutor in Tauranga for eight years, used his maiden speech to challenge parts of the legal system, saying the accused's right not to face questioning in cases such as rape put victims who had to face often gruelling cross-examinations in an uneven position.

"Martin Luther King jnr once said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. In many trials I have seen injustices - indeed manifest indignities - performed on the weakest in our society as court rules work against them ... in short, juries need to be trusted with more information and victims of sex crimes treated more evenly when compared to the accused."

Mr Bridges told the

Herald

the question of whether an accused should face questioning was particularly relevant for sexual crimes or crimes against children where the victims themselves faced often gruelling cross-examination.

"I'm a reasonably experienced rape trial lawyer and I can think of specific women cross-examined for days, while the accuseds just sat on their hands and didn't give evidence. There have been acquittals where I am sure factually that the accused was guilty."

The right to silence has long been considered fundamental to the criminal law ethos of"innocent until proven guilty".

Mr Bridges said he believed the law should be"rebalanced"and he intended to work on the issue as an MP.

He said juries should also be trusted with more information, such as previous convictions, in some cases as the current laws could obstruct a fair verdict.

A Law Commission report released last year on the issue of whether juries should be allowed evidence, such as the previous convictions of the accused, recommended no changes, while it monitored the impact of evidence law changes made in 2007. It will report back in 2010.

Now aged 32, Mr Bridges entered Parliament after eight years working as a Crown prosecutor in Tauranga. He was educated at Auckland University and the University of Oxford, where he met his wife Natalie.

He also spoke of his Maori ancestry in his maiden speech. His grandmother Naku Joseph was Ngati Maniapoto. Mr Bridges said she had stayed in an unhappy marriage with her "hard-living" Pakeha husband because of a belief at that time that marriage to a Pakeha "was bettering herself and her children's prospects".

She wanted her children to get "letters behind their names". Mr Bridges' father became a Baptist minister and in turn urged his own children to seek those letters.

Although not a wealthy family, all of Mr Bridges' siblings went on to higher education. "The surest path from poverty to prosperity that I know of."

He also paid tribute to his two predecessors: Winston Peters and Bob Clarkson, noting wryly that the city seemed to like colourful people as its MP.

Vital Statistics:

Won the Tauranga electorate by 11,742 votes in a closely-watched battle with NZ First leader and former Tauranga MP Winston Peters. Mr Bridges was selected for the seat after previous MP Bob Clarkson left politics. Mr Bridges will be deputy chairman of the justice and electoral select committee, and a member of the law and order committee.

Kennedy Graham
Green list MP

Vital Statistics:

Was ninth on the Green Party list - squeaking into Parliament after the special votes lifted the Green vote. Is on privileges committee and the justice and electoral select committee.

Party spokesman on trade and foreign investment, constitutional issues, state services, justice, official development assistance, disarmament, security and intelligence services, and climate change.

Background:

Former diplomat and academic - most recently he lectured in international law at Canterbury and Victoria universities. Was involved in NZ establishing a nuclear-free zone, including fronting on it as a diplomat before the UN in Geneva and New York.

Personal:

Two of Mr Graham's family members served in Parliament before him - his brother Sir Douglas Graham and Hon Robert Graham, who served 150 years ago and whose tiki Mr Graham had with him during his maiden speech.

Sir Douglas was Justice and Treaty Negotiations Minister in the National governments of the 1990s. Despite the differences in their politics, Kennedy Graham said his brother "left a profound legacy of dignity and vision" and that their fraternal bond was unbreakable.

In his own words:

"We are drawing down on Earth's natural resources, borrowing forward on the human heritage, irretrievably encroaching on our children's right to inherit the Earth in a natural and sustainable state."

Carol Beaumont
Labour list MP

Vital Statistics:

Entered at 28 on Labour's list. Stood in Maungakiekie electorate after Mark Gosche left politics. Seat was won by National's Sam Lotu-Iiga by 1942 votes. Is a member of the transport and industrial relations select committee. Labour Party spokesperson on consumer affairs and associate spokesperson for Labour.

Background:

National secretary for Council of Trade Unions for five years. Trained as a teacher and worked as adult educator, involved in women's and students' groups, and in community health.

Personal:

Says her late father Ron takes credit for teaching her how to speak out and fostered debate, but also sowed the seeds of feminism in her when he dismissed her wish to follow in his footsteps and become a mechanic as "unsuitable for a girl". She was chairwoman of the Melville High School Student Council, worked as a cleaner and was in the Cleaners' Union.

In her own words:

"In the course of the campaign I saw the huge number of people who work for community good in sports groups, marae, in youth groups, in community safety groups, in churches and in community development initiatives. They are ambitious people. It is important to reflect on the meaning of the word 'ambition' because recently it has been used by many only in the context of the individual. It is more than that. I consider myself ambitious and have always wanted to use my skills in roles that challenge me but my real ambition is in wanting to make a difference for others."